Saturday, December 26, 2009

Trouble at Southwestern College

Local artist Katherine Sweetman, in conjunction with Media Arts Center San Diego, has produced a short video, Trouble at Southwestern College.

Highlighting the role of electronic news sharing, the video documents the issues leading up to the Oct. 22 student rally and the ensuing suspension of four instructors.

Please share!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Censorship and the Sun

Award-winning student publication The Sun dealt another blow

According to sources, an "audit" (responsible agency unknown) has halted publication of the Southwestern College Sun. Reportedly, Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs Nicholas Alioto will not allow The Sun to transfer any money until the audit is complete, in effect stopping the presses.

For background and insight on this latest turn of events, please see Nick Furr's post at The Writer's Washroom.

December 09 Governing Board Meeting, Oral Communication Video

Thanks to student Veronica Golenia, we have some video of last Wednesday's Board Meeting:

Part I: "Oral Communication" begins at around the 11:16 mark with a report on the budget and reserve funds from SCEA President Philip Lopez*, who asks the Board, "Who will be held accountable? Who will take responsibility? Will you?" when come next Fall it turns out that cutting 429 course sections was unnecessary.

*Please also see Phil's comment on the board's inability to comprehend budget matters.

SWC Board of Govenors Meeting 12/09/09 PART 1

Ronnie | MySpace Video

Part II continues the last part of Philip Lopez's remarks, followed by Patti Flores-Charter, who observes that "leaders don't hold forums after a tsunami" and provides an "Update on the Injured"--an accounting of staff "lost in the proverbial brain drain."**

Next up at 2:53 is Valerie Goodwin-Colbert, President of the SWC Academic Senate, reading the text of the Senate's recent Vote of No Confidence in the SWC Governing Board. (At its regular Nov. 24, 2009 meeting, the Academic Senate unanimously voted no confidence in the Board.)

At 7:28, Jose Preciado, President of the South Bay Forum, comments on the Board's poor reputation in the community and the adverse impact of its recent decisions.

SWC Board of Govenors Meeting 12/09/09 PART 2

Ronnie | MySpace Video

** The full text of Patti Flores-Charter's remarks:

Governing Board Meeting
Oral Communication

The tsunami that was heading toward us has hit head-on.

Leaders don’t hold forums after a tsunami. They don’t ignore community leadership structures after a tsunami. They mobilize community leaders in triage efforts to rescue the injured and begin repairs.

The tsunami has hit and our leaders continue to ignore the injured and the damage.

By Friday we can add our web programmer, Patty Ramert, to the list of staff lost.

So here’s an update on the injured resulting in a proverbial brain drain on campus:

  1. Debra Fitzsimmons, Fiscal Affairs

  2. Fusako Yokotobi, Human Resources

  3. Greg Sandoval, Student Affairs

  4. Arthur Lopez, Financial Aid

  5. Nevada Smith, Community Relations

  6. Linda Gilstrap, Grants

  7. Fernando Poveda, Outreach

  8. Silvia Lugo, Performing Arts

  9. Eli Singh and Patty Ramert, Web Technologies

And these are just the injured I know about. But what about critical services after the tsunami? Here’s just an example:

  1. CSS remains so understaffed that the dedicated and limited staff must work almost round the clock to keep up with repairs and requests. They cannot keep up this pace.

  2. At a time when President Obama’s agenda for higher education is focused on student aid and grants we do not have Arthur steering the rescue raft or Linda Gilstrap’s experience guiding our fiscal rescue. Instead I heard we’ve hired yet another consultant for grants.

  3. After cutting 429 sections we find out from the Union Tribune we can have 50 back.

  4. After cutting 429 sections we now hear there may be faculty hiring
    and we’re supposed to scramble into this leaking raft and head over
    a new unseen cliff.

The fact is there was no rescue plan. There is no rescue plan. There is no leadership at Southwestern College.

The next regularly scheduled Board meeting will be held January 13, 2010 at the Otay Mesa Higher Education Center.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Spin

We all knew it was coming; we just didn't expect the San Diego Union-Tribune to go along with Chopra's spin game to such a degree.

On November 20, the Union-Tribune presented a damage-control "interview" with Raj K. Chopra under the name of "news."

Here is another version, courtesy mandrake1 and photographer X:

As someone who knows something about this let me play counter point here. Chopra is well known for being evasive and at times spinning complete fabrications. The vast majority of students, faculty and staff at the school live in a climate of fear and retribution. Let me answer the questions in a way that readers can understand the issues at SWC and that many who work and go to school at SWC believe are the real motivations behind the actions.

QUESTION: What do you see as the issues pertaining to the Oct. 22 protest?
Those faculty members are mostly union officers and have defied my will and have displeased me. This was a way that I could punish them and maybe even eliminated them for good. I was going to have them prosecuted by the DA but unfortunately, there were no unlawful actions so I had to drop it.

QUESTION: Why has the situation turned so volatile, and have you done anything to address it?
I hated listening to others, particularly when they don’t agree with me. That’s why I took vacation just hours after I suspended the 4 professors. I just didn’t want to face the heat for my actions (notice the director of HR also immediately went on vacation). I am so refractory to input that doesn’t match my own beliefs that I disenfranchise those that disagree with me. Even though, by law, I am supposed to work with faculty and staff to reach consensus, I believe that I am I charge and that is that. People get really really angry with that, but tough darts I say, I am president.

QUESTION: What is your response to criticism that the school’s free-speech zone is too small?
I got lucky on that one. The previous interim president and previous academic senate president (who was voted out of office before the end of her term) were able to craft a free speech policy that worked to my advantage. No matter that the policy violates the 1st amendment to the US Constitution. The school has been contacted by the ACLU about this and has been advised that we will be in court if we don’t change it. Oh well, it was great while it lasted.

QUESTION: Many don’t understand why so many course offerings have to be cut. Can you explain?
Well its really very simple, what I should do and what law says I need to do is consult with managers, faculty, staff and students to come to a consensus on how to make cuts with a minimum of impact to students and programs. But I want to do it my way and since the faculty and students have not supported me, its time that they faced the music. I decree that all of the cuts will come from the class schedule. No cuts from the administrative side of campus at all. I know that the faculty and students have come up with reasonable and prudent plans for saving much of the class schedule but I am not interest in that and don’t want to hear it. I already know what I want to do and the governing board is ok with it. After all they hired me, gave me a raise and a contract extension. Does that all make sense?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Why a Recall?

As you may have heard, we are currently mounting an effort to recall three of the sitting board members. The letter below explains why:

Greetings Friends of Southwestern College,

Some community members may be questioning why there is a recall effort for Jean Roesch, Terri Valladolid, and Yolanda Salcido when an election is coming in Nov. 2010. There would reasonably be talk of cost.

Here are some of the reasons:

1. Work conditions are so bad at SWC and deteriorating so rapidly that this action is our only hope for change by summer 2010. We can’t wait for November.
2. There is too much at risk to wait until a summer/fall election.
3. The cost of the recall on the June ballot is a fraction of what these Governing Board members have cost our college to date in litigation and will cost us in future litigation. We need to stop the fiscal mismanagement ASAP.
4. We have more total administrators per faculty than any other college in our region, and we are hiring more. (*See table below.)
5. It costs less for the June recall than one year of Dr. Chopra’s exorbitant salary with benefits.
6. These board members have shown that they will not help us. Terri Valladolid’s offer of a forum to bring concerns is disingenuous at this very late date. For over a year the board has been hearing all the different and increasing problems at every meeting. (**See explanation below.)
7. Too much damage to our college infrastructure is happening now to wait, i.e. computing systems, budget, reorganizations, and morale.
8. We must get the truth out now to our community so that critical voter awareness is raised.

The community taxpayers deserve to know the truth about Southwestern College’s Governing Board majority. They deserve to hear all sides and voices so they can make an informed decision at the ballot box in June. All we want is a chance for democratic process.





Community College

Number Students Enrolled

Number of Vice Presidents

Number of Deans









San Diego Mesa







6/1 Senior Dean

San Diego City




Mira Costa




San Diego Miramar







5/1 Executive Dean

Imperial Valley





On Thursday, 03 Dec., SWC faculty received the following email:

On Behalf of Terri Valladolid
Governing Board Member

To: Faculty
Southwestern College
Board Member Terri Valladolid will host a forum for faculty and invites you to share your thoughts and concerns.
Date: Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Room: 214
All faculty members are welcome to attend and participate in dialogues on issues important to Southwestern College.
Thank you.

Apparently, another email, announcing a separate forum went to classified staff. Faculty and staff were as puzzled by the separate forums and involvement of a single board member as they were about this very late invitation to "dialogue."

Superintendent/President Raj K. Chopra notified the other board members of the forums, and then board member Nick Aguilar sent the following email in response:

Date: Thu, 03 Dec 2009 14:04:15 -0800
To: Raj Chopra <>, 'Pick Nick Aguilar' <>, Jorge Dominguez <>, Jean Roesch <>, Yolanda Salcido <>, "'Salcido, Yolanda'" <>
From: Pick Nick Aguilar <>
Subject: Re: Terri Valladolid Forums
Cc: Terri Valladolid <>, "'Valladolid, Teresa'" <>, SWC Academic Senate President <>,

Dear SWC Governing Board Colleagues,

While Trustee Valladolid's outreach efforts are commendable, the appropriate forum for discussions of the SWC Governing Board Free Speech Policy is at a regular or special meeting of the Governing Board. With all due respect to Trustee Valladolid, the SWC Free Speech Policy is a matter totally within the purview and responsibility of the entire Governing Board, these forums are not an appropriate or acceptable substitute for the failure or refusal of the SWC Superintendent and SWC Governing Board President Roesch to respond to the request I submitted to both of them several weeks ago to place the SWC Free Speech Policy on the agenda of the November 2009 Governing Board meeting. In fact, this message will serve to notify both Superintendent Chopra and Board President Roesch of my standing request for the inclusion of the an item on the December 9, 2009 Board agenda for the Board to direct the immediate review and update of the SWC Free Speech Policy. Best regards to all. Nick Aguilar

At 02:35 PM 12/2/2009 -0800, Raj Chopra wrote:

For your information, Terri will be holding forums on campus to provide opportunities to hear from constituent groups on their thoughts and concerns regarding issues important to Southwestern College.

Thank you.

Raj K. Chopra, Ph.D.
Southwestern College

Full House at the Board

In comments that were in turn eloquent, angry, and moving--and often all three--over 30 speakers stepped to the microphone and spoke their hearts and minds for over two hours at the November 18 Governing Board meeting.

In response to requests from students, faculty, staff, and community members, the meeting was held in Cafeteria East (capacity 300) instead of Room 214 (capacity 85). The venue was packed.

Ranging from new and returning students to retired faculty, from community activists to suspended instructors, those speaking often pointed their comments directly at President Raj K. Chopra.

Several speakers, including those addressing the Board in Spanish, remarked on Chopra's refusal to make eye contact. "What have you been writing for two hours?" asked one student in exasperation, referring to Chopra's habit of looking down at the table while penning . . . something . . . as participants spoke.

Police presence at the meeting was heavy, and at one point officers moved in on speaker Frank Luzzaro, who spoke beyond the allotted three minutes.

Raymond Lutz of the Citizens' Oversight Projects was on hand to record the proceedings, and we look forward to the posting of that video on his web site.

In the meantime, here are a few photos taken that evening:

Dinorah Guadiana-Costa stands on a piece of cardboard labeled "free speech area"

Heavy police presence

Angie Stuart

Andy MacNeill

More photos coming soon. . . .

The next Board meeting will be Wednesday, Dec. 09, 7:00 pm on the main campus in Room 214.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Press Updates from the Best Source

If you've been missing our blog updates, do not despair because the award-winning Southwestern College Sun is on the job!

The latest issue (just out today) provides updates on recent concerns:

Speaking Up: coverage of the suspensions and aftermath

Governing Board Members Face Recall (need we say more?)

Filner, ACLU, FIRE Join to Blast College's Restraint of Free Speech

Computer Glitches Drop Thousands of SWC Students (a follow-up to our previous blog post. It should be noted here that VP of Student Affairs Angelica Suarez has not made good on the promise quoted from her email below. Students who were dropped in error are not being reinstated. Instead, they've been told there's nothing to be done.)

Sun Editorial: Board Needs to End Chopra Era, Begin to Repair Damage

For more on what's happening on campus, including more budget and program cuts, visit the Sun at

Thank you, Sun reporters, for continuing to provide outstanding coverage!